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Castro Attends Rock Concert - El Nuevo Herald, 19th February 2001

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Title: Castro Attends Rock Concert
Publication: El Nuevo Herald
Date: Monday 19th February 2001
Writer: Andrew Cawthorne

With the ruling Fidel Castro seated before them and an immense Cuban flag in the background, the British rock band Manic Street Preachers gave a historic concert in Havana on Saturday, the first big show of a band of its kind on the communist island.

Castro fulfilled a personal wish of the three musicians of the Welsh group to meet them behind the scenes before occupying his seat with 5,000 spectators, mostly young, but only by invitation, at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, a stage many times reserved for political events.

After a song titled "Baby Elian" in reference to the Cuban rafter boy Elián González, Castro stood up and applauded, presumably in recognition of the sympathy of Manic Street Preachers with the Cuban cause.

The rock group, openly anti-American, declared on Friday that its presence in Havana to launch a new album titled "Know Your Enemy" (Know your enemy), was a "gesture of solidarity" with the island and that if Castro attended his concert it would be "the greatest honor" of their lives.

"They were very nervous when Fidel arrived," said a source behind the scenes.

Ironically, it was the Castro government that in the first decades of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 called rock music "decadent influence" and some Cubans still remember how it was frowned upon to hear the Beatles or wear long hair.

Recently, however, Castro has reflected another attitude, to show that times have changed, attending first to the tribute to the Beatle killed John Lennon last year and on Saturday to the concert of Manic Street Preachers .

Castro was accompanied all the time in the concert by the Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, who has long hair and is a poet.

"That the president of this island comes to this concert is really a revolution," said Gil Pla, singer of Cuban rock group Joker, who was at the concert.

"They always labeled us as antisocial, but now this shows that we're fine; They have realized that rock is culture too," he added.